From the Namaacha Files: My first experience with agua
I was feeling particularly gluttonous one evening after a meal of deep fried potatoes, deep fried fish (heads and all), with a side of deep fried rice, and was debating going for a walk or pursuing some other form of exercise that evening.
Mama Celeste suddenly enters the room in a hurry, and all I catch is something about washing clothes the next morning. (Yay! Finally!, I think to myself. I wasn’t sure why we hadn’t done it before, as I was getting pretty desperate. )
Confused but curious, I follow her to the kitchen, where she’s excitedly emptying buckets and jugs into other buckets and jugs and pots and anything else that has the capacity to hold water (Soup bowl? It’ll work for now. Xi-xi bucket? No problem.). Afterward, I silently congratulate myself – I’m wearing my khakis, maroon polo and TCU hoodie from class earlier that day, and I haven’t gotten a drop of (pretty disgusting) water on me.
Then Mama C picks up three of the jugs, motions for me to pick up the other two, and exits the kitchen.
The only problem? She’s not headed for the front door.
In fact, I have no idea where she – now we – are headed. By the time I do realize what’s going on, it’s too late: The first water jug is full, and I help Mama C place it on her head. And the second one? Yep, that’s where I come in.
And so I double over, bear hug the 25 liter jug that’s about the size of my torso, and start toward the house.
Mama C doesn’t spill a drop from the jug on her head. I take a step, wait for the water to stop sloshing, take another step, wait for the water to stop sloshing, and continue in this fashion back to the house.
I can feel the water drip onto my leg first, then, after another few sloshes, it begins to run down my leg, and before long my khakis are so drenched they’re sticking to my legs.
Two houses away, it begins to slip…
I stop, put it down and rearrange, have to concentrate to unwrap my digits from their death grip on the underside of the jug, and hoist it up again.
What on a casual walk takes three minutes took around 15.
I realize as I approach the house that my adopted brothers will get a kick out of my awkward state of wetness, as I imagine it looks like I xi-xi-ed my pants. I finally drop the jug in the kitchen (now missing about a third of the water) and have a chance to survey the damage. No, it does not look like I xi-xi-ed my pants. It looks like I did much more than xi-xi my pants and proceeded to roll in it. The dirt from the bottom of the jug had mixed with the water sloshing everywhere and turned my khakis a lovely shade of mud.
Mama C has already gone back to the pump.
I run in the house, change pants, grab my trusty capulana, and follow after her.
At this point, it’s pitch black (and of course there are no street lights…cause there’d have to be streets…) and I have the added fun of trying to figure out where to step without twisting an ankle or angering a black mamba. Not that I could see my feet over the jug in the first place.
After the second jug, I don’t think there’s any way my arms and back will allow me to carry, let alone pick up, another. I head back to the pump, but am genuinely uncertain of what I really hope to accomplish. Mama C has her final jug on her head, I bend down to pick up the last one, and I hover there a moment, trying to trick my arms into thinking they can hoist up just one more jug…
But wait, what’s this?! A person is approaching! A man, at that! And a man Mama C apparently knows! She calls out to the dark figure approaching us. He says he’s headed to our house! Mama C motions to me, says something along the lines of “fraco” (weak) and motions again towards the house. I’m saved!
My mysterious savior bends over the jug, hoists it up as though it were empty, and says something to me.
I’m so thrilled at his assistance that it takes me a little to realize what he’s saying…something about my head?
And then I remember: oh yeah. I’m in Mocambique. Men here are only good for the consumption of food and alcohol, the spreading of AIDS and the creation of more little women to do all the work for them.
“Não posso a cabeça,” I tell him. I can’t carry it on my head.
Fueled by my sudden rage at his entire species, I’m able to bear hug the proffered jug and trudge after Mama C. The man follows us right back to the kitchen, waits patiently for us to sort out the water situation, then joins my brothers on the couch in front of the TV as Mama C serves them dinner.
I am not a raging feminist. But at that moment, I came pretty darn close.